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Featured Poem II • March 2015

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A Primer for Reading 23 Pairs of Chromosomes, or, Introduction to Your Own Personal Genome Project

 

Jeannine Hall Gailey

 
 

You are not a ticking time bomb. Your results feel more like collage art, a Frankenstein patchwork mostly unproblematic. Yes, a carrier gene for this, a likelihood for that—an old age of macular degeneration, a possible thyroid cancer— but this book’s chapters carry you in fascinating directions— thousands of years into the past, exotic destinations and origins: Ireland, Norway, France, even the Middle East and Africa. Your skin color a trick of the light. Your statistics are not so glum, and is it a delight or disappointment to find you might have been born a blue-eyed blonde instead of a grey-eyed brunette? To find a high pain tolerance and no tendency towards alcoholism? Oh, speak to us, amino-acid chains, and tell us our futures. Pretend for a moment not to know our dark secrets, our fading memories for foremothers. Embrace the order of things: traits that take three neat pairings, a bleeding tendency ticked on or off. A heart flutter your grandmother also experienced, your great-aunt’s straight nose and high forehead. Sail into the future armed with the knowledge you refused ignorance of your own body’s demons and delights, that your home country is fairy tale, ice and reindeer and green sheets of rain, the sand of Brittany, the mountains of Tennessee.

 

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Jeannine Hall GaileyJeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers and The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, out in spring 2015 from Mayapple Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 6. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review and Prairie Schooner. Her website is www.webbish6.com.

Her note about “A Primer for Reading 23 Pairs of Chromosomes, or, Introduction to Your Own Personal Genome Project” is shorter than the poem’s title: “This poem is part of a new manuscript I’m working on about apocalypses in pop culture.”

 

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